What Is a QR Code Used For?

Updated 5/6/24:

QR is an acronym for quick response – which makes sense as QR codes respond very quickly to requests to use them. Essentially, a QR code is a square-shaped barcode that you can scan with your smartphone to load a website, application or setting. It’s quick and saves time vs. typing a long web address, searching for an app or setting, or typing a long password. QR codes can also be used to load phone numbers, passwordless login pages, and Wi-Fi details. 

In a restaurant your server may ask you to use scan a QR code to load the menu on your smartphone instead of receiving a physical menu. In supermarkets QR codes are used to give you more information about a product or load a specific page in their app where you can “clip” a digital coupon. At a concert, public event or at the airport a QR code may be used in place of a paper.

While QR codes are really useful, they can seem daunting if you don’t know how to use them. In fact, a YouGov study found 14% of Americans find QR codes to be challenging to use, with adults over the age of 65+ especially are likely to say so (20%). 

Below, we’ll explain how to use QR codes. We’ll also help you to understand which QR codes are safe to use – and which you should be wary of. 

How do I use a QR code? 

All smartphones with a camera can scan a QR code. If you have an older smartphone, your camera app might not come with this capability. In this case, you should be able to download a QR scanning app from the Apple Store or Google Play. If you’d like assistance with this, let us know, and we can help

Once that’s done, it takes just a few simple steps to scan a QR code. 

  1. Open the camera or QR code application on your phone.
  2. Point your camera at the QR code. Line up your camera so that all four corners of the code are in view.
  3. Click the link that’s presented on the screen.
  4. Your phone will now do the work for you! It should automatically take you to the website, application or setting specified by the QR code.

Are QR codes safe?

Legitimate QR codes are safe to use. You need to be wary, though, of fraudulent QR codes that are made by criminals. These codes look like legitimate QR codes but have dangerous consequences. 

A malicious QR code might: 

  • Install malware onto your phone
  • Take you to a malicious website that asks you to hand over personal details or financial information 
  • Make your device join a suspicious Wi-Fi network that allows attackers to see and steal your data 

Because we can’t read QR codes, it’s very easy to fall for a QR code scam. Plus, as these codes are increasingly popular, hackers are betting on the fact that people won’t suspect anything untoward. 

Most recently, the FBI has warned of a scam in Texas, where hackers have been placing fraudulent QR codes near parking meters in Austin. Many civilians have scanned the codes to pay for parking, but the codes actually lead to a fake payment website. Not only are people getting parking tickets, but they’re paying hackers! It’s unknown whether the hackers are also stealing the credit card information given on the fake website – but it’s very possible! 

This type of attack will become increasingly common. We’ll see more and more hackers print malicious QR codes and place them in public in order to trick people. 

Don’t fall victim to a QR code scam!

This kind of scam shouldn’t put you off using QR codes entirely. You just need to be careful about the ones that you use. 

We recommend being wary of all codes posted in public places. Make sure to inspect the code before scanning. Don’t scan a QR code on a sign taped to a utility pole, and look for QR codes that make be taped over legitimate QR codes – such as on a public parking meter. It’s also helpful to carefully inspect the website address of a QR code that you’ve scanned. Can you spot the difference in the following website addresses?: https://computertechsreno.com versus https://cornputertechsreno.com Look at the grammar, punctuation and spelling on the website to make sure it appears legitimate – particularly if the website is asking for payment details. Malicious URLs tend to have spelling mistakes and are suspiciously long. If you’re still unsure, don’t scan the QR code. We advise avoiding scanning all codes attached to street poles – as these can’t be trusted.

Generally speaking, QR codes in retail stores or on restaurant tables can mostly be trusted – but always check with a member of staff if you’re not sure. You can scan QR codes from sources you trust, like on TV, on popular websites, or a trusted person’s business card. 

If you’re not sure about a QR code, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We can help you to protect your mobile phone. If you’d like assistance, contact your tech, or scan the following QR code with your smartphone:

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